The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown

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All eyes will be on Houston tonight as 2020 Democratic presidential candidates take the debate stage in what is the first time every top-tier candidate will be together, headlined by the trio of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump shakes up WH communications team The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic The Intercept's Ryan Grim says Cuomo is winning over critics MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Warren releases plan to secure elections during coronavirus pandemic On The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDrugmaker caps insulin costs at to help diabetes patients during pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic Sen. Brown endorses Biden for president MORE (I-Vt.). 


Biden, the leader of the centrist wing, will be flanked by Warren and Sanders, the top progressives, also marking the first time the sharp ideological divide in the primary will be on full display during a debate. 


As Amie Parnes and Julia Manchester write, Sanders and Warren are likely to approach the debate with a playbook similar to the one they effectively deployed at the second debate in Detroit to fend off attacks from lower-tier centrist candidates: teaming up in defense of their unapologetically progressive platform. However, each will also need to carve out space to stand out at a time when Warren appears to be gaining momentum and energy. 


Biden, strategists maintain, will need to go on offense. While the former vice president has been a staunch defender of a centrist platform, one that delivered former President Obama two terms in the White House, he is at risk of being seen as out of touch as the Democratic Party continues to shift to the left and appears hungrier for new ideas by the day.


The Associated Press: 7 questions heading into 10-candidate Democratic debate.


During the showdown at Texas Southern University, Biden will try to put to bed questions about his age and stamina following two previous debate performances that were underwhelming at worst and shaky at best, as Jonathan Easley reports from Houston.


With tonight’s debate scheduled for three hours, the former VP will attempt to play down his age (76) as a vulnerability along with his reputation for gaffes. Some Democrats believe Biden’s malaprops and inaccurately embellished storytelling could make him an easy target for President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE, if the three-time White House contender captures the Democratic nod. 


Trump has been vocal about Biden’s mental capacity, telling reporters that the Democratic front-runner is “not playing with a full deck.” Biden will be forced to show tonight that he is ready to do battle next fall with the president. 


For the rest of the field, tonight is a chance to stand out and potentially bust out from mediocre or low poll results. For Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation WhatsApp limiting message forwarding in effort to stop coronavirus misinformation The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update MORE (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE, it’s a chance to reboot their campaigns. 


For Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Klobuchar's husband recounts battle with coronavirus: 'It just suddenly hit me' Hillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Wisconsinites put lives on the line after SCOTUS decision MORE (D-Minn.), Andrew YangAndrew YangJack Dorsey committing billion to coronavirus relief efforts Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Andrew Yang: Calling coronavirus 'China virus' only used to incite 'hostility' MORE and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, it’s an opportunity to deliver a breakout performance and jump from low to middling polling numbers. 


However, it might be the last best chance for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) to make a dent in the 2020 campaign. Since the dynamic start to his campaign, the former Texas congressman has struggled mightily. He has bottomed out in fundraising and polling, leading some Democrats to call for him to drop out and run for the Senate against Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers announce legislation to fund government purchases of oil GOP senator: National shelter-in-place order would be an 'overreaction' Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package MORE (R-Texas) — a move he maintains he will not make. 


Additionally, O’Rourke has performed poorly in the first two debates, putting more pressure on him in front of his home state crowd. 


The New York Times: Warren and Biden will finally debate. Here’s what to expect.


The Wall Street Journal: Democrats make play for Texas’s delegate prize ahead of debate.


Politico Magazine: ‘Why are you pissing in our face?’: Inside Warren’s war with the Obama team.


Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: I like Elizabeth Warren. Too bad she’s a hypocrite.





CONGRESS: Emboldened by new polls showing the president’s approval rating is sinking slightly, along with predictions for economic growth, Democratic lawmakers are playing hardball on spending talks and expected gun legislation as they believe they are in the driver’s seat in negotiations. 


A budget deal reached before the recess now appears in doubt after Democrats on Tuesday insisted on an amendment to block the president’s Title X family planning rule. 


At the same time, Democrats are gearing up to reject whatever gun-violence proposal comes from the White House. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHealth care workers account for 20 percent of Iowa coronavirus cases Pressure mounts on Congress for quick action with next coronavirus bill Schumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House MORE (D-N.Y.) feels confident Republicans will get blamed for a shutdown and Democrats will maintain an advantage on gun control (The Hill). 


Senate Republicans believe that the president is open to expanding background checks and other gun violence reforms as lawmakers wait for the White House’s plan, which is expected today, as Jordain Carney reports. The president has not indicated what the plan will include, having previously said he is interested in expanding background checks, and then back down shortly after and say the main issue at hand is mental health.


"We're going to know, hopefully by tomorrow, if there's something that we can all agree on, and once we agree on something, we're going to hold to it," Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoliticians mourn the death of Bill Withers Pressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (D-W.Va.) told reporters Wednesday.  


Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCoronavirus watch: Where the virus is spiking across the country New Jersey governor closing parks, forests Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Conn.) characterized the next 48 hours as the "witching hour" to know if Trump and the handful of senators who have been negotiating on gun proposals will be able to strike a deal.  


"I think we'll know soon, within the next day or two, whether or not the White House is really willing to put a substantive background checks expansion bill on the table," Murphy said.


The Washington Post: Democrats diverge over pursuing assault weapons ban.


The New York Times: Business leaders to call on Congress to act on gun violence.


> Immigration: Senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump shakes up WH communications team CNN's Jake Tapper takes aim at Trump over coronavirus response: Do you have a plan? Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE pushed Senate Republicans on Wednesday to unite behind a 600-page immigration plan he has crafted ahead of the 2020 election in an attempt to give the GOP a positive vision for reforming the U.S. immigration system. 


Kushner received a warm reaction from Senate Republicans who attended the lunchtime meeting to discuss his ideas. The main message put forth by the president’s son-in-law was that it would be smart for the party to unify behind a plan to counter Democratic attacks that Republicans don’t have any interest in fixing the nation’s broken immigration system.  


According to a source in the meeting, Kushner told lawmakers, “It’s important that Republicans be for something and not against something, and the president has worked hard to design this plan and we want to make sure we can all be unified as a party” (The Hill).


The Hill: Democrats face key moment on impeachment drive.


The Hill: House approves two bills to block Trump drilling. 


> Cheney for Senate?: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse GOP leaders back effort to boost small-business loans Scott Gottlieb becomes key voice warning Trump, GOP on coronavirus Self-quarantined New York lawmaker: 'We should be in total lockdown' MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, faces a pivotal choice in whether she should stay in the House or run to replace retiring Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine MORE (R-Wyo.): a decision that is bound to have significant ramifications for House Republicans. 


As Juliegrace Brufke reports, although the filing deadline for Cheney to enter the Senate race isn’t until May 2020, pressure is mounting on the prominent Wyoming Republican to announce her plans before elections begin to heat up. 


“I think there’s an expectation among her colleagues that she’ll make her intentions known by the end of the year or soon after so people are clear about where things stand in advance of campaign season,” one GOP operative with relationships to House members said.


Paul Kane: House GOP’s suburban slide a worrisome trend for party despite narrow North Carolina win.


Politico: ‘I would tell Joe to wait’: Democrats warn Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill How campaigns are adapting to coronavirus The Hill's Campaign Report: Three states holding primaries despite coronavirus MORE (D-Mass.) against challenging Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocratic senators question Google over decision to release coronavirus location data Why being connected really matters for students On The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds MORE (D-Mass.)





New robots, new jobs


Innovation is opening up new career paths in Amazon warehouses. See how.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Food and Drug Administration, with the president’s outspoken encouragement on Wednesday, moved to ban flavored e-cigarette products using its rulemaking power under existing law, citing health hazards for young consumers (The Hill).


“We can’t have our youth be so affected,” Trump said. “People are dying with vaping, so we’re looking at it very closely.”


The FDA is working on final guidance to implement the ban, which Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said would take several weeks to complete. 

Azar said all flavored e-cigarettes must be removed from the market after a 30-day effective date, pending FDA approval. Manufacturers of tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products will be required to file for federal approval by May, Azar said.

The government gained the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, but that power did not cover vaping products until 2016. At the outset of the Trump administration in 2017, the FDA decided to delay enforcing the laws application to e-cigarettes until 2022, despite calls for action from public health groups. In response to a federal lawsuit, the agency moved its timeline to regulate e-cigarette products to next spring (The Washington Post).


Meanwhile, lawmakers in both parties have pushed the FDA to crack down on e-cigarettes. Lawmakers have called for product bans, marketing restrictions and a complete market recall of all e-cigarettes in reaction to the growth in the marketplace and the trend seen in teenage use over the past year. The industry, which is using an aggressive advertising and lobbying campaign to try to thwart interventions in Washington and in the states, asserts that black market marijuana products are more likely tied to reported vaping illnesses, not nicotine (The Hill).


Reuters: What we know about U.S. vaping illnesses, including at least five deaths.





> Iran: Trump on Wednesday left open the possibility of relaxing economic sanctions against Iran before starting new nuclear negotiations, seeming to favor a diplomatic deal. Hours earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the United States must lift sanctions before any talks. Trump’s comments in the Oval Office appeared to soften the administration’s “maximum pressure” policy with the country (The New York Times).


The president previously said a meeting with Rouhani was possible on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York later this month. “Sure, anything’s possible,” Trump said recently. “They would like to be able to solve their problem,” referring to Iran’s inflationary pressures resulting from economic sanctions. “We could solve it in 24 hours,” he said.


> China: The United States will delay by two weeks an upcoming increase in tariffs on $250 billion worth of goods from China at the request of Beijing as a “gesture of good will,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. The president said he would push back to Oct. 15 tariffs set to go into effect on Chinese goods on Oct. 1. 


"At the request of the Vice Premier of China, Liu He, and due to the fact that the People's Republic of China will be celebrating their 70th Anniversary....on October 1st, we have agreed, as a gesture of good will, to move the increased Tariffs on 250 Billion Dollars worth of goods (25% to 30%), from October 1st to October 15th," Trump wrote (The Hill).


> Homeless: Responding to Trump’s attention to Fox News coverage of homeless people living in tent encampments in California cities, administration officials toured an unused former Federal Aviation Administration facility in the state this week in search of a potential location to move the homeless, the Washington Post reports. Trump is expected to visit California on Tuesday and Wednesday for a campaign fundraiser in Beverly Hills. It’s unclear if the president will discuss his concerns about the state’s homeless population during his trip, the Post reports.


> Environment: The administration today plans to jettison an Obama-era definition of what qualifies as “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act in order to return the United States to standards put in place in 1986, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air Warren, Markey knock EPA over 'highly dangerous and irresponsible' rollback amid pandemic Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE told the Washington Post in an interview. He said EPA will finalize within months a new definition that determines which water bodies deserve federal protection. Trump has called the 2015 definition, which expanded EPA authority over the nation’s waterways, “destructive and horrible.” 


> State Department: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to label white supremacist group as terrorist organization for first time Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad MORE has solidified his status as Trump’s most influential adviser on foreign policy with the ouster this week of former White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE.


Trump on Wednesday castigated Bolton, blaming him for “some very big mistakes.” By comparison, Pompeo, who continues to rebuff expectations that he’ll run for the Senate in Kansas, enjoys a strong relationship with the president and remains one of Trump’s most trusted allies (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Can we trust polls in 2020? by former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill. 


We cannot forget or go soft — terrorists remain bent on U.S. destruction, by Mary Beth Long, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Hill.TV host Jamal Simmons at the Houston debate hall with a preview of tonight’s event, to be broadcast by ABC News and Univision; Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump campaign, also joins the program from Houston; Briahna Gray, national press secretary with the Sanders campaign, talks about the Vermont senator’s debate outlook; and Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist and author, discusses her new book, “Open Borders Inc.” Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House meets at 9 a.m. for legislative business. The House Judiciary Committee meets at 8 a.m. to consider a resolution on procedures for impeachment hearings regarding the president. The House at 9 a.m. may consider a bill to repeal the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program authorized in the 2017 tax law. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Mattis defends Pentagon IG removed by Trump Overnight Health Care: Trump calls report on hospital shortages 'another fake dossier' | Trump weighs freezing funding to WHO | NY sees another 731 deaths | States battle for supplies | McConnell, Schumer headed for clash MORE (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Phase-four virus relief hits a wall House GOP leaders back effort to boost small-business loans MORE (R-Calif.) will hold his weekly press conference from the GOP retreat at 3:20 p.m. in Baltimore. 


The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to vote on executive nominations. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a confirmation hearing at 9:30 a.m. on the nominees for Army secretary and Air Force secretary  


The president will have lunch with Pompeo at 12:30 p.m. Trump will deliver remarks at 7:10 p.m. at the 2019 House Republican Conference retreat held in Baltimore, a city the president denigrated this summer as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”


The vice president will deliver remarks at the Concerned Women for America’s 40th Anniversary Celebration at 7 p.m. at Trump International Hotel.


Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Consumer Price Index for August at 8:30 a.m. 


Smithsonian Associates hosts “The Supreme Court: A Preview of the New Term,” from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today in the Ripley Center in Washington, with a panel of experts, including Noel Francisco, U.S. solicitor general; CNN’s legal analyst, journalist and author Joan Biskupic; Elaine J. Goldenberg, partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson; Martinez Roman, partner with Latham & Watkins; and moderator Kannon Shanmugam, managing partner at Paul Weiss. The popular event has a waiting list and information is HERE.


Skills today for tomorrow's jobs


Amazon is investing $700 million in upskilling programs for 100,000 U.S. employees. The company will provide training and skills for job opportunities of the future.


Opioids: OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners, members of the Sackler family, on Wednesday tentatively settled thousands of opioid lawsuits brought nationwide, but without a statement of wrongdoing for the deaths of thousands of people (The New York Times).


Short-term rentals: The battle between the hotel industry’s lobbyists and rental platforms such as Airbnb has made its way to Congress, where lawmakers are weighing legislation that would place new advertising restrictions on short-term rental platforms by removing protections under a section of the Communications Decency Act that give internet companies legal immunity over content posted by third parties (The Hill). 


Immigration: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request by the administration to enforce a new rule that would curtail asylum applications by immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The court said the rule, which requires most immigrants who want asylum to first seek safe haven in a third country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, could go into effect as litigation challenging its legality continues. Among the nine judges on the court, liberal Justices Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court blocks Wisconsin from extending absentee voting deadline Supreme Court sides with police in traffic stop case Supreme Court postpones April arguments MORE and Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court blocks Wisconsin from extending absentee voting deadline Supreme Court sides with police in traffic stop case Supreme Court postpones April arguments MORE dissented (Reuters). The White House issued a statement hailing the court’s support for administration asylum policy as “a decisive step.”


Horse racing: The New York Times has quite a scoop with its report that Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner trained by Bob Baffert, failed a doping test weeks before the Kentucky Derby last year, an event that should have kept the talented horse out of contention. Instead of the failed drug test causing a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. Then, instead of filing a public complaint as it usually does, the board made a series of decisions behind closed doors as it moved to drop the case and lighten the penalty for any horse found to have the banned substance that Justify tested positive for in its system.”


Hockey: An Arlington, Va., grade school classroom this week was just one stop along Stanley Cup champion Alex Ovechkin’s promotional tour for new Ovi O’s cereal, along with visits to Georgetown Hospital and a Giant supermarket in Washington, where the somewhat battered looking Capitals captain, whose face took the brunt of a weekend bike accident, worked the checkout line. Ovi O’s, a honey-nut breakfast option, will be available exclusively at Giant stores in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware beginning Tuesday, Ovechkin’s 34th birthday. A portion of the proceeds are to benefit the Maryland-based Children’s Cancer Foundation Inc. (The Washington Post). 





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by this week’s anniversary of 9/11, we’re eager for some smart guesses about events set in motion 18 years ago.


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


Former President George W. Bush learned about the ongoing terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, from Andy Card, his White House chief of staff. How did Card tell the president?


  1. Telephone call
  2. Encrypted message
  3. Whispered in the president’s ear during an event
  4. Secure video conference call with national security team


Osama bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 attacks with al Qaeda lieutenants but was never indicted. He remained on the FBI’s Most Wanted list until May 2, 2011, when what took place?


  1. Bin Laden died following years of ill health while in hiding
  2. He was murdered by rival jihadists
  3. U.S. special forces captured and killed him in Abbottabad, Pakistan
  4. FBI did away with its Most Wanted list


At 9:42 a.m. on Sept. 11, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center decided on a course of action that made U.S. history. What was it?


  1. Placed air marshals on commercial aircraft
  2. Closed U.S. airspace, grounding all commercial air traffic
  3. Closed U.S. airports in major hub cities
  4. Halted commercial flights in the United States for three hours


The attacks of 9/11 triggered a cascade of U.S. federal responses. Which did NOT occur?


  1. Creation of an escape pod on Air Force One
  2. Creation of the Department of Homeland Security
  3. Creation of the Transportation Security Administration
  4. Creation of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of bin Laden’s deputies, was captured in 2003 in Pakistan. Where is he today?


  1. Died while in U.S. custody
  2. Imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where he faces a military tribunal in January 2021
  3. Imprisoned in a high-security federal facility in Colorado
  4. In Germany, serving a life sentence for his role in the terror attacks